What to Do if Your Teen is Contemplating Suicide
Every 90 minutes in America, a young person kills himself. One-third of all teenagers in the United States say they have considered suicide – 15% have thought about it seriously and 6% have actually tried to kill themselves, according to a Gallup Poll.
Forty-seven percent say it is because of family problems, 22% say they are depressed, and 22% say they have problems with friends and peer pressure. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for adolescents, accidents being the first. In the year 2020, it is predicted that there will be well over 1.53 million suicides. We as parents must know the telltale signs of a young person considering suicide and what to do about it.
It is interesting that most teens’ suicides are not among the poor and unpopular. Many of those who both attempt and commit suicide are those you would least expect – those who look like they have everything going for them and are very popular.
Signs of suicidal tendencies include:
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Withdrawal from friends and family activities
- Violent or rebellious behavior (i.e. running away)
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Changes in hygiene
- Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, decline in schoolwork
- Frequent stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Inability to accept praise
- Feeling “rotten inside”
- Giving away favorite possessions
- Verbal hints such as, “I won’t see you again.”
Eighty percent of suicide victims communicate their intention to someone beforehand. The problem is that most people don’t take them seriously. If you see any of these tendencies in your teen, it is important to take them seriously.
Examine what is going on their life and how you can help them get through it.
What should you do if you see some of the signs in your teen?
Pray. I don’t mean pray a little prayer and hope things get better. I mean pray a prayer of faith over your young person. Rebuke the spirit of death in their life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” If your young person is thinking about life as not worth living and that they should die, the enemy of their souls is trying to deceive them. The devil is the one who wants your teen to die before their appointed time.
Pray: “In Jesus’ name, Satan, you cannot have my young person. I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. You stay away. They will live and not die. They will fulfill God’s plan for their life.” Pray a prayer of faith like that over them and deal with the core root problem.
These aren’t just words you can say and then expect the enemy to go running away with his tail between his legs. You have to pray this until you know deep within your heart you have truly taken authority over every evil one. He gave authority to His disciples to drive out evil spirits, and He has given that authority to us. (See Matthew 10:1 and Luke 10:19.)
Speak scriptures over your teen and over your home. Go into their bedroom while they are at school or at work and lay hands on pray and over their bed, their clothes, anoint with oil their doorpost and bedroom walls. Rebuke the enemy from their room and invite the Holy Spirit in. Place a hedge of protection around their physical being, actively taking authority.
If your young person has attempted, seriously contemplated, or talked about committing suicide, do not take it lightly. They are crying for help! Get them professional help right away for evaluation. I would suggest a program like Rapha, which is a Christian counseling ministry.
Really listen to your young person. Never underestimate the seriousness of a threat or suggested harm to themselves. Listen carefully to their emotions and plans. They may have planned a very specific way to end their life. If so, it is a much more serious situation than you may have imagined.
Just being there for them as a compassionate person can often diffuse a young person’s sense of being alone in their pain. They won’t feel like they deal with their situation by themselves.
Here are some specific things you can do based on the work of Jay Adams, Marianne Dougworth, and Bill Blackburn:
- Work on your relationship with them. Don’t just be interested in talking to them about their thoughts of suicide, but talk to them about their life, their heart, their direction and goals, their passion and their failures and successes. The best prevention for suicide is a healthy strong relationship with parents and with other people. You will never really “arrive” in a relationship – it must be something you are continually working on.
- Build self-worth. It is important to help your help your help your teen build their self-worth, but not in a patronizing way. Don’t just say, “Well, you’re good at this, and you’re good at that,” every time they feel bad about themselves. Begin building their self-worth when you are not in a counseling session or in a deep conversation about suicide. When they say something witty, identify it. When they do something good, compliment it. You are looking for any reason to give them hope, taking little baby steps along the way.
- Instill hope in them. Adam says, “Suicidal persons need hope. They are preeminently persons with no hope.” Give them hope that things will get better, hope in their heart that God created them for a specific purpose. Build their hope and begin to build their faith. Teach your young person where suicidal thoughts come from. The enemy wants to destroy their life and destroy their soul, but God wants to give them abundant life. (See John 10:10.) God wants to bless them, and all the hope and faith for an incredible life is found in Him alone. The people who know their God shall be strong and do mighty exploits. (See Daniel 11:32.) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (See Philippians 4:13.) As you share scriptures with them, it will build faith and hope in their heart that they can get over this cesspool of depression.
- Teach coping skills. With all the pressures, temptations, frustrations, and confusion your young person faces, teach them positive steps they can take when they feel hopeless or when they face crises; they do not have to feel hopeless or that they will never get over it. Impart to them principles on how to live life so when they feel they’re at the end of their rope, they don’t throw in the towel. You cannot expect to just sit down one time and tell them some neat things to do that you read in a book. Coping skills must be reinforced on a regular basis. Constantly impart to them, “This is how you deal with your life. This is how you deal with tough situations.” Role play and talk through situations so that when they find themselves in one of those situations, they have answers already prepared. This is called parenting. It’s more than putting food in their stomachs and a roof on their head – it’s teaching them how to deal with life.
- Develop a plan of action. If they start considering suicide, what will you do? Develop a plan of action to deal with some of those bothersome circumstances that make them feel hopeless. Help them develop a plan – how will they get out of this? How will they improve their situation? Don’t just say, “Oh, you’ll get over it,” but help them find a way out by developing a plan of action. If a plan of action isn’t obvious, research until you come up with one. Maybe a good plan would be for them to throw some of their energy into something new, fun, and interesting, such as horseback riding, a sport, or a project the two of you can do together.
Finally, draw your teen into personal commitment to prevent a suicide attempt. If they start feeling depressed or thinking about suicide, they agree to contact you. They agree not to quit trying to contact you until they get through to you. Keep a cell phone on you and commit to call them back at the first available moment you have and stay with them until the crisis has passed. It requires commitments on both parts – from you and your teen – to really deal with this.
Make yourself 100% available – if that means interrupting a meeting or getting off an important phone call, do it! No situation is more important than supporting your son or daughter in an intense time like this. Constantly reaffirm this commitment as you get together and talk.
Please realize that just because you have a plan like this, it is not the ultimate plan. The ultimate plan is to instill hope, faith, and vision for their future. Constantly let your young person know that God has a plan for their life and you are praying for them. Speak words of faith over them.
Get them more concerned about their future and about reaching out to others and helping them. That will help them draw them out of the depression. Pour your energy into helping them develop a vision for their future – a plan of faith and optimism. Ask God to birth a dream in your teen’s heart of what He wants to do with their life. If they are consumed with God’s plan for their life and His hope for their future, they will be drawn further away from suicide and will begin to love and enjoy life.
Begin praying these scriptures over your teen:
“No harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” Psalm 91:10
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” Colossians 1:13
“No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17
“But you a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
If you find yourself facing this situation, you also need strength and encouragement for yourself that only the Word of God can offer. Rely on the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide you in all your ways.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 6:19
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
“’For I know the plans I have for you,” Declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11
God has wonderful plans for your teen. He has a purpose for their life. Stand on the promises of His Word and you will have the victory.